There are those who are naturally strong. My father, who went to the University of Missouri in the 1960’s, can attest to this. He was friends, still to this day, with many members of the football program. During that time, the university won multiple college bowl and many players went on to become professionals in the NFL and several inductees into the Hall of Fame. There was little to no strength and conditioning program but they were strong. Naturally gifted athletes that grew up in rural America who were built hard and tough. Country strong. Naturally strong. Extreme example, sure, but many of us are not made that way. Some are naturally strong, good for them, but for the rest of us, we need to put hard, calculated, methodical work into becoming strong. Like any skill, discipline, or art form the final product is masked by the years of hard work that came before it. This is why strength is an art form.
Strength is an activity that is enhanced by a high level of refinement. Working, readjusting, working, readjusting, working, readjusting. The process repeats itself over and over until the final outcome is a mastery of strength. The real question is though, what is strength?
This is a topic that has been debated for years. Is it pure power or endurance? Is it moving a certain multiple of body weight several times or just a one rep explosive movement? I’ll leave that to be discussed in gyms and locker rooms. The definition is a personal preference and, in the end, it really does not matter. What does matter is the dedication it takes to become strong.
First and foremost, strength needs to be equal throughout the body. This means that push to pull to squat ratio must be the same. This does not mean that all the movements need to move the same amount of weight but a certain percentage of weight in relation to other movements. This creates a balance within the body and helps prevents injury. The world-renowned strength and conditioning coach Michael Boyle discusses this in his book, New Functional Training for Sports. “An athlete needs to be able to be in balance with his lifting in order to increase his athletic ability. Essentially what this means is that being able to squat 1000 lbs (453.5 kg) and bench 100 pounds (45.3 kg) is a recipe for disaster.” I have come to learn and love this principle and have come to use it as what strong means, a push-pull balance. But how is strength considered art?
As discussed earlier, I believe that strength takes an extreme amount of discipline. It is a day in and day out pursuit of a goal regardless of the obstacle or even the time it takes to overcome those obstacles. Discipline is the ability to continue to work through failure. Like any art form, strength takes time. There will be moments where there can be plateaus or even a slight regression, but still continuing to move forward and work takes a mindset of no secondary plan. There is no Plan B with the pursuit of strength because of the high expectation that is self-imposed. The process of achieving a goal is important and creates an unshakable high moral value. Dedication to the process is caused through discipline and effort.
Never stop becoming a student. There is always an opportunity to learn and become better. Even the most skilled and experienced technician knows that there is always more to learn. Strength is the same way. The constant intake of information of sets, reps, and techniques is a must in order to grow. This creates someone who is knowledgeable who in turn can teach others. There is a level of academics to creating art and strength is no different.
Art is a form of communication. It conveys feelings, thoughts, observations, and even inspires. This describes strength. Strength has its own language, both internally and externally, that can be expressed for the world to see. Strength can express discipline, dedication, and self-worth which are very attractive qualities. Strength is a living example of art because it is something that cannot be achieved overnight. Look at everyone who compete at Mr. Olympia. Every competitor has dedicated years of discipline to learn and lift and their bodies are the expression of that dedication and knowledge. This form of expression can inspire others to continue on their path regardless of the obstacle.
Strength and art are one in the same. They take a level of knowledge, a tremendous amount of discipline which is in turn communicated to others. It is a livelong pursuit. There is no end game. Yes, there are accomplishments along the way, but it is a lifelong process that continues to evolve over time. Stay strong.